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The Growth of a Purpose Driven Church

Rick and his wife Kay Warren began the church in their home January 1980, with one family. The Warrens made a commitment to give 40 years of their lives to this community. They labored for over 20 years and now have a mega church. It has grown from a Bible study in his condo in 1980 to 15,000 baptized members today. Another 70,000 people who've attended at least one service are in the church's database.

Saddleback Church is located on 120-acre campus in the hills of southern Orange County, California.

Every weekend nearly 19,000 worshipers choose from among nine “venues” as varied as the 3,000-seat main sanctuary, the coffee bar or the “beach hut” for high-schoolers. Built into the landscape - designed by theme park experts - are settings for 40 Bible re-enactments, including a stream that can part like the Red Sea. This evangelist has a 'Purpose' By Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY http://www.usatoday.com/life/2003-07-21-rick-warren_x.htm 

A lot of people genuinely want to see more people saved. Because of his success, Rick Warren’s books and methods have become the newest way to do church for many searching to expand their borders. Some pursue his methods to try something new to grow their church, others desire growth for significance, still others envy the growth and adopt his methods, all have come on board to use his strategies to build a mega-church.

Rick Warren earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from California Baptist College, a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary. So he has an educational background that many pastors often lack.

The Purpose Driven Life has now sold more than any other book this year, 7 million so far, and was named “Book of The Year” July, 2003. 40 Days of Purpose is now being done in corporations (Coke Headquarters, Sparrow Records, etc) schools, prisons, NASCAR, LPGA, the Oakland Raiders, and all kinds of places besides churches.

“It will hit 10 million copies sold by the end of December and has been on the New York Times hardback bestsellers longer than any other book this year (40 weeks)” It has now sold over 20 million.

Newsletter- reference www.saddleback.com/peaceplan 

Zondervan press release, Sam's Club sold 1 million copies of the book, making it “the first book ever in Sam's Club history to do so” http://www.crisisinthelcms.org/world.12.06.03.warren.htm

“Right now about 5,000 more churches are doing the 40 Day of Purpose campaign, and now the program has been adopted by corporations (like Coke and Walmart) sports teams (like the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers, NASCAR drivers, and the LPGA) schools, civic clubs, and even prisons…. In 2004 we expect over 15,000 more churches to participate.” www.saddleback.com/peaceplan)

Warrens predictions came true as he now has 20,000 churches participating. 

The book has been translated in over 20 different languages. Like it or not this church model is hear to stay. And the debate will certainly become intense with those on different sides as more information comes forward.

I speak as one who loves the brethren and cares for the Church. I have to tell you, there is more to the book[s] than meets the eyes. This article is written at the risk of seeming to appear to be against anything that is called good, which is not the case. But as Scripture tells us “test all things,” we must apply this mandate and look more carefully into any new emerging trends or doctrines concerning the church. This is certainly one of them.

The book's title Purpose Driven is a registered trademark and there are many other Purpose Driven products. For those engaged in this trend they will soon be able to look on their wall to see what date it is on their Purpose Driven calendar with inspirational quotes. They can sit at their computer using their Purpose Driven mouse pad on there Purpose Driven desktop, and drink coffee from their Purpose Driven coffee mug...Can we look forward to a Purpose Driven car?

In the back ad of his book the Purpose Driven Life it mentions that Rick Warren has taught over 100,000 pastors in 100 countries. More than 250,000 pastors and church leaders from over 125 countries have attended Purpose-Driven Church seminars. Rick Warren is the also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community that serves and mentors those in ministry worldwide. Over 60,000 pastors subscribe to Rick Warren’s free weekly email newsletter, Ministry Toolbox. Many will download his sermons or outlines to use in their own churches for messages.

If this is so, I have a problem with this. A pastor is to get their sermons from the Holy Spirit through prayer and study, not by borrowing whole sermons, or outlines of other men’s messages, be it Warren or anyone else. When this takes place he is no longer a shepherd of his flock. This does not mean he cannot borrow certain statements or portions to enhance his message, but when one is relying on another mans work like this, then his influence is not the Holy Spirit but man. Let’s avoid falling into this method of sermonizing.

Warren’s new book the Purpose Driven Life is greater in success than his first smaller bestseller. The Purpose-Driven Church (a 399-page book) that was released in 1995 and secured its place as a long-term bestseller, winning the Gold Medallion Award.

Who is the founder of seeker sensitive religion?

Robert Schuller stated “An undisputed historical fact is that I am the founder, really, of the church-growth movement in this country ...I advocated and launched what has become known as the marketing approach in Christianity” (Pritchard, Willow Creek seeker services 1998 p.51).

He may well be right, however I would disagree that it is something to be proud of. His success and ideas have inspired many of the most successful “seeker” churches in America; including Warren.

Warren says, “During his last year in seminary, he and his wife drove west to visit Robert Schuller's Institute for Church Growth. “We had a very stony ride out to the conference,” she says, because such nontraditional ministry scared her to death. Schuller, though, won them over. “He had a profound influence on Rick,” Kay says. “We were captivated by his positive appeal to nonbelievers. I never looked back.”

Schullers appeal to non-believers (and believers) is his positive message to salvation being man-centered rather than God-centered. This in our post modern Christian church is spiritual humanism. Warren like Schuller also calls for a new reformation to move from a God-centered focus first to a “human needs” approach. Not only does Schuller not mention sin but neglects it by changing its meaning (go to article on Schuller).

This is how Schuller changes the message of truth “I believe that the responsibility in this Age is to 'positivize' religion. Now this probably doesn't have much bearing to you people, being Unity people, you're positive. But I talk a great deal to groups that are not positive... even to what we would call Fundamentalists who deal constantly with words like sin, salvation, repentance, guilt, that sort of thing.” (Self-Esteem)

I don't think anything has been done in the name of Christ that and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality and, hence, counterproductive to the evangelism enterprise than the often crude, uncouth, and unchristian strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition” (Time, March 18, 1985)

Imagine saying this in front of Jesus Christ who said “for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matt 9:13). In fact Jesus put it this way Mark 2:17, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

Concerning the critic's claims on his message Schuller responding to a question from Paul Crouch on the TBN television show, “I preach repentance so positively, most people don't recognize it”.

That’s a stealth Biblical message. How can you preach something people must do and yet not know what they are hearing to respond to it? “Shh don't tell them they are a sinner they may not like it.” Like Schuller, the seeker friendly churches avoid the appearance of preaching repentance in a Biblical manner and water down a major facet of the gospel.

Imitating Schuller’s concepts of growing a church--Warren walked the (then unincorporated but fast-growing) town of Lake Forest, asking what kept people from going to church. He recruited a Bible study group that met at the Warrens' condominium; its members helped stamp and address letters to 15,000 households. “At last!” the letter began. “A new church for those who've given up on traditional church services!” More than 200 people showed up for an Easter service at Laguna Hills High School. Watching them stream in, Warren marveled, “This is really going to work!” (Christianity Today, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2002/012/1.42.html

Like Schuller, Warren spent twelve weeks going door to door and surveying the “needs” of the people (Purpose Driven Life p. 139). This is the main focus of his church and also the key to his success in growth; marketing. 

All this is fine in and of itself, advertising does work, and offering something new and different will attract a crowd. But the question we need to ask is “what are they attracted to?” Many are interested in just getting the people to the church for them to hear a spiritual message about God. Conducting surveys to determine a Church’s direction and mission is not God’s way.  Shouldn't the Holy Spirit be leading us in how to reach the people in our cities? Instead he has advertised his methodology and everyone is adopting it because they want to have the same success. 

Did the apostles market their message to the people they wanted to reach? Of course not. We should not forget the examples given to us from the ones who went before us found in the Bible. They did no gimmicry to attract a crowd.

Just as exuberant as Warren is about Schuller, Schuller is about Warren. Robert Schuller’s praise of the book is found on the inside front cover.

I'm praying that every pastor will read this book, believe it, be prepared to stand corrected by it, and change to match its sound, scriptural wisdom. Rick Warren is the one all of us should listen to and learn from” (Robert H. Schuller, Pastor, The Crystal Cathedral, Garden Grove, California).

Considering that Schuller is void on Biblical teaching, his endorsement does not help validate Warren. To stand corrected from what? Not doing the Schuller type church! Many unbelievers are happy that traditional church services are not employed and they can now be comfortable going to church. They will not hear a message on sin or guilt or separation from God. We need to read the book of Acts again to see if this was the goal of the apostles or even part of their activity to attract gentiles and convert their brethren.

Warren's message is focused on how every church can have tremendous growth like he has if it use his principles. With over 16,000 in attendance each weekend, the church averages 20,000 at its Sunday morning services, having over 50,000 names on the church roll, Saddleback is one of America’s largest and best-known churches. Over 5,000 people have been baptized at Saddleback! http://www.saddleback.com/membership/fullstory.asp?id=392

Peter had the same results with a different presentation in Acts 2. His was by the power of God through a scorching presentation of the gospel to the people that rejected Jesus. He did not cater to their sensitivity.

Gary Gilley points out - The natural outcome of church leaders, who pour over such literature, is that they begin to use, “computerized demographic studies and other sophisticated marketing techniques to fill their pews” (ibid., p. 62). And the good news is that it does not matter what a given church believes, for “anyone can learn these marketing and outreach techniques. You don’t have to change your theology or your political stance” (ibid.). Springing from this fountain of demographic “truth” is a whole industry of experts to teach church marketing techniques. (American Demographics, April 1999, “Choosing My Religion,” pp. 60-65, by Richard Cimino and Don Lattin Quoted by Gary Gilley, Think on These Things, Volume 6 Issue 6 June 2000 The Market-Driven Church Part 1)

Should the mega church model be the standard for the 21st century church?

Frustrated by the lack of growth people want to get in on what God is now doing. We need to ask ourselves the question: are mega churches the answer, or are smaller churches placed everywhere a better and more accurate model.

Interpretation is by perception and our perception is being transformed by the new paradigm. Big churches are now considered good and blessed, small churches are not. Consider the first century church that met in households with certainly less than 100 people gathered, (more like 50). A century ago most churches contained 100 members and everyone in the community knew each other and were personally involved in their lives. Isn’t this what Warren is means by being involved in the community we live in. I remember reading Jesus mentioning the words remnant, little flock, not mega-church. Although he did give the example of the mustard seed (the church) growing tremendously and all the birds of the air found shelter in it “but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” (Matt 13:32) we later find the bird’s are not a good thing. something to consider if we are trying to make mature believers to be in ministry.

A church needs to ask why they are not growing before they jump on the newest (successful trend?) method to increase membership. Is it a time of preparation? Does the lord want them to examine them-selves? The church can grow numbers wise but it does not always mean it is the Lord adding to it. Look at the tremendous growth in the cults. Spiritual growth is what counts in the end; maturity should be the goal rather than today’s popular emphasis on numbers. The "Church Growth" teaching could work just as well in a cult group when it is not adhering to Biblical doctrines and precepts.

Jesus said, “I will build my church.” As long as we are following him this will happen. It may not be as quick as we would like but the Church will grow. The way God's work was accomplished before is the same way today “Not by might nor by power but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.”

Warren writes in his book “In the past seven years, the church has baptized over 9,100 new believers. When God has a bunch of baby believers he wants to deliver, he looks for the warmest incubator church he can find” (p.167 The Purpose Driven Life). The inference is his church and others that are large are the warmest for new believers. Typically this is not so, small churches are more often warm and friendly. But all Churches whether large or small should be warm and friendly for anyone who comes through the door. But what does this have to do with changing the format of the church? Unfortunately new lambs find their way into people who will not care for them, it is a fact that unfortunately happens.

Because of his books success Warren has recently done TV interviews including Fox News Live, ABC, NBC, and CBN, and claims, “this spiritual awakening is starting to get the attention of the media.” www.saddleback.com/peaceplan 

Is it a spiritual awakening? It has been noticed that the same secular management principles and marketing techniques that are used for large corporations and being applied in communities and governments around the world are also being employed to God's church. (http://www.saddlebackfamily.com/peace/Services/110203_high.asx

go to Warren's peace plan to see what he wants to solve).

In Warren’s Peace Plan he states this: “You've heard me say many times that the greatest thing you can do with your life is tell somebody about Jesus and invite them to come to know Him ... And I've always said that was the greatest thing you could do with your life.  I was wrong.  There is one thing you can do greater than share Jesus Christ with somebody, and it is help start a church.” (emphasis added)

What happened to Mt.28 being our mandate? Is starting a church what more important than engaging in personal witnessing? Then anyone who witnesses is doing a lesser thing than when they helping someone plant a church. The fact is, Scripture tells us to be witnesses over, and over as a priority of our being in this world. Warren's focuses on the church because he confuses the church as being the answer-not Jesus Christ. The church by her works will influence the world to become a better place, i.e. through his peace plan.

If it Works it is of God

Some might ask: “what’s wrong with this if it works?” It has always been held that we are to do God’s work God’s way. To adopt the worlds way of broadening our numbers is bringing the world into the church. But this is subtle and the outcome of this error is not so easily seen.

Many make the point of Peter Druckers model being used in the seeker friendly church. Drucker who is 94 years old Episcopalian. Fortune introduced him as “the most prescient business-trend spotter of our time.” He is well known for his genius in management theories, and marketing techniques and just having insight on where things are headed.

“...there is a substantial critical mass of people and churches that are already moving.' ...While acknowledging that there are still many unhealthy churches, there is a justified 'change in basic premises, basic attitudes, basic mind set... on the whole, we are on the march…”(Peter Drucker Leadership Network. Leadnet.orgarchives/netfax/1.pdf )

And where does he see us marching to? “What the dawning 21st century needs above all is equally explosive growth of the nonprofit social sector in building communities in the newly dominant social environment, the city” “…only nonprofit organizations can provide the enormous diversity of communities we need --churches to professional associations, from organizations taking care of the homeless to health clubs -- if there are to be freely chosen communities for everyone. The nonprofit organizations also are the only ones that can satisfy the second need of the city, the need for effective citizenship for its people” (Drucker, Peter F. “Civilizing the City” Leader to Leader. 7 (Winter 1998): 8-10.) .

Are Churches to participate in these community developments? Is this the purpose of the church to serve for the advancement and health of the community? If we change our focus to doing things like this we change everything. What Drucker is proposing is that the church should participate in meeting the enormous needs of each community they are in (read Warren's peace plan). We will become one of the many aids for community development and purpose that are people driven.  God can move individuals to do these things in ministry but to conform a whole church to this activity changes the very purpose of the church. Our priority is to preach the salvation message and help people grow up in their spiritual life.

These are some interesting ideas presented and of course he is talking about the change now taking place. “All institutions, including governments, churches, universities, and so on, will become more interdependent, more market- and customer-driven” (Peter F. Drucker Leader to Leader, No. 1 Summer 1996).

Isn’t this what we see already happening. Warren says, “I read everything Peter Drucker writes. His book "The Effective Executive" is a favourite I re-read every year. Long before words like “empowerment” became popular, Peter was telling us that the secret of achieving results is to focus on your strengths, and the strengths of those you work with, rather than focusing on weaknesses.” http://www.jobsnorthwest.com/Stories/Story_970901.htm  http://www.wpbc.org.nz/Monthly/June/page3.html 

Consider that by Warrens admission he is getting his influence, inspiration from the world should be a red light for those who want to uphold and practice biblical truth. Warren has been greatly influenced by these secular marketing techniques. He states that church, in order to be successful, we must target and appeal to our audience. This is the same concept used in advertising to market a product. Entertainment is how the world sells their products; should we advertise the church as a better product than the rest?

In his church management he offers the premise that God uses people in their areas of natural strengths, rather than in areas where they are weak. This is taken from Peter Drucker’s marketing model. After giving a set of goals for the Church, (The mission, the value, management, teamwork etc.) Drucker says, The three most important questions are “What is our business?” “Who is our customer?” and “What does the customer consider value?” (IMPORTANT Lessons from Peter Drucker http://www.changingchurch.org/perspec/vol24/druck.htm)

Is it right to use the same way one grows their business and employ it to grow the church? This is the trend we see emerging.

“Thus says the Lord, ‘Do not learn the way of the nations...” (Jer. 10:1). God had Israel dress shave and eat different than the nations so they would follow his ways. Now we are being told the reverse.

Deut 18:9 ‘“When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations.” This is not only their idolatry and occult practices that were to be avoided. Although the church is not Israel we still have the same principle to abide with (2 Cor. 6:17; Rev.18:4)

“Ephraim mixes himself with the nations; Ephriam has become a cake not turned. Strangers devour his strength, yet he does not know it” (Hosea 7:8, 9). It is essential to understand what God warns of so we have His power to live out HIS PURPOSE. Isaiah 30 :2 Woe to those who walk to go down to Egypt and have not asked my advice.” 

Remember the words of Jesus - John 17:16-18 “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” Jesus did not use the philosophical ways of man and he does not expect us to borrow from the culture its ways of doing things.

Paul’s emphasis was a contrast the way the world works and the way God’s people should believe. Notice these passages Rom. 12:2 “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” So the word of God is to be our model for everything and we are not be conformed to this worlds way of thinking so we can do God’s purposes. We are to have the church different from the world; our pattern is not to be imitating the world.

1 Cor. 2:12-16 “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

These passages leave little justification for adopting the world’s growth strategies into the church, especially in such an abundant manner. We should not forget Eph 2:2 “in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience”

Was Jesus interested in increase or in sincere followers of the truth? Want to know how to lose disciples really quick? Jesus shows us how - He told them hard statements and parables they could not understand unless they were spiritually minded and pursuing the truth. (Jn.6; Mt.12)

Want to know how to gain members really quick? Jesus didn’t. He in fact lost more than he gained. If you preach the truth uncompromisingly you will not gain as many as you will lose. That's the way it's been that's the way it is. But God is interested in making quality Christians not quantity church members. If we don’t know the difference we will buy (yes it will cost money) into these new methodologies.

Like it or not, the Gospel will ALWAYS be “offensive” to more people than it will attract (1 Cor. 1:18, 23,24).  

Too many are convinced they have no significance unless their numbers are mega church size. Nowhere do we find in the New Testament a church being commended for its numbers, but for its maturity. This was often measured by its endurance and sustainability through trials and persecution, not how large they were. Jesus is more concerned about quality, not quantity. We want the numbers in the Church and numbers are good when God adds them, but they should not be pursued. Acts 2:41-43 “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.” “The Lord added to the church daily.” The reason is because they were learning about Christ, they were learning what we now have as the Scripture. 

On p. 163 of the Purpose Driven life Warren states, “every church has its own set of weakness and problems” I would think that his would apply to his as well. If we were supposed to borrow the world’s ideas for doing church we certainly would not have need of the apostles laying the foundation for the church throughout the ages and giving us the instructions. If one ignores their foundation can they genuinely call themselves a church?

Essentially we need to make a choice on whose writings are we going to follow

Unfortunately this needs to be said; Instead of “Let us build a tower” it is now “let us build a church” that the world may take notice and come to us. But we want to lift up Jesus and have them come to Him. The only way that can be dome is to preach the truth, on sin, judgment, repentance, faith and who Jesus is as the ONLY way to LIFE.

Warren may have some good practical points but in the end does it really matter how you got to the goal? I think it does. His message is mixed and it makes it confusing and of course harder to notice the flaws. The church needs to stop being trendy and get back to the ancient Gospel which is the power of God. 


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